Kevin Carroll, a former Army officer who served as senior counsel to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly during the Trump administration, laid out in stark terms on Tuesday a part of the most recent indictment against former President Donald Trump that has not received wide attention.
Carroll’s op-ed in The Dispatch, titled “An Unthinkable Choice,” leads with a jarring subhead that declares, “Donald Trump’s advisers would have put the U.S. military in the position of defying orders or turning their weapons on civilians.”
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Carroll begins by writing, “As a veteran, my blood ran cold reading two particular passages in special counsel Jack Smith’s indictment.” He goes on to explain that in those two specific paragraphs, Smith details how then-President Trump and the team of election-denying lawyers surrounding him laid out an “autocratic plan to remain in power” that would “make the U.S. military choose between subservience to civilian control or refusing to undertake an anti-democratic domestic political role.”
Carroll continues, noting that Trump’s alleged coconspirators had discussed how to quell the inevitable rioting should he overturn the 2020 election:
In the first passage, it appears that when a deputy White House counsel warned Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark that if Trump remained in office despite the absence of any evidence of outcome-determinative election fraud, riots would break out in U.S. cities, Clark responded, “That’s why there’s an Insurrection Act.” In the second, the indictment reports that when similarly warned of the risk of riots, Trump’s outside counsel John Eastman responded that there were points in American history when violence was necessary to protect the republic.
He goes on to explain that Trump’s plan included having then Vice President Mike Pence nullify electoral college votes in key states won by Biden and have them replaced by Trump votes, changing the outcome of the election. Pence, in recent days, has made clear in media interviews that this was indeed Trump’s plan, which he refused to go along with.
Trump’s team “anticipated that this unconstitutional act might lead to widespread unrest, and that they planned for the commander-in-chief to order federal troops (or federalized National Guardsmen) to put down those riots. The armed services were to be told to use force against Americans to keep Trump in office, despite the objective fact, as established in more than 60 judicial proceedings, that Biden won the 2020 election,” Carroll explains, focusing on the planning for the aftermath of overturning the election.
Carroll lays out how the scenario would unfold as soldiers face down rioting Americans in the streets, resulting in a “tragic loss of life” that could easily spiral out of control.
“The presidential demand anticipated by Clark and Eastman would place military leaders in the excruciating position of responding to an order facially legal under relevant statutes, but given for a purpose inimical to the ideals of the framers of the Constitution to which they swore an oath,” Carroll argues, adding:
Generals would be forced to choose whether to abandon an unbroken tradition of American military obedience to civilian control, or turn their guns on civilians to facilitate a losing candidate remaining in the White House beyond Inauguration Day.
The foreseeable consequences of Clark, Eastman, and Trump’s criminal plot would have been profound for the military and the nation. I suspect the generals would have reluctantly chosen the first of the two bad options they faced.
Carroll concludes by adding that if Trump is convicted for conspiracy related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election the “potential harm” of his desire to turn the military on the American public to remain in office “should be taken into account in the former president’s sentencing.”